By Patrick Massey
With Arkansas’ deer season coming to an official end Feb. 29, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is reminding all hunters to help monitor chronic wasting disease in the state by using one of the AGFC’s free CWD testing locations. All resident hunters who submit a sample for testing are being entered into a special drawing at the close of the 2023-24 hunting season for one of two Resident Sportsman’s Lifetime Combination Licenses and Permits valued at $1,000.
The most popular method for hunters to have their deer tested is through the AGFC’s system of drop-off containers throughout the state.
“We have at least one container location in every county, and multiple locations in many counties near the areas where CWD has been found.” AJ Riggs, wildlife health biologist for the AGFC, said.
To use a drop-off container, bring the deer’s head with 4 to 6 inches of the neck attached and any antlers removed, and place it in one of the provided plastic bags with your name and contact information on the card provided. The AGFC will collect these samples and have them analyzed. Testing results should be available within two to three weeks.
Anyone who submits a positive sample will be notified via phone as soon as the results come back.
The other free option to get your deer tested for CWD is to take it to one of the AGFC’s network of participating taxidermists, who will pull a sample for you. Most taxidermists should pull a sample from any deer submitted to them, even if you are not using their service to preserve your deer.
All testing locations are available at www.agfc.com/cwd/. Some of the locations have changed from last year, so hunters are encouraged to look ahead of time and find a sample location closest to their hunting area and note hours of operation.
Area testing locations include the USFS Mena/Oden Ranger District Office in Mena and the Farmers Association in Dierks.
Arkansas deer hunters submitted a record 8,759 samples from their harvested deer during the 2022-23 Arkansas deer hunting season to be checked for chronic wasting disease, but according to wildlife veterinarians with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, there’s still a lot of work to be done in monitoring and slowing the spread of CWD on the landscape.
The AGFC recently partnered with the National Deer Association to increase awareness of chronic wasting disease and the importance of having your harvested deer tested. The article “Five Reasons to get Your Deer Tested for CWD” gave a concise message to a national audience to help increase awareness about having your deer tested, even if you don’t live in an area where CWD has been confirmed.
State biologists stress that results from areas where the disease has not been found are just as valuable as those where a few detections have occurred. They may even be more valuable because they give biologists greater confidence in knowing where the disease does and does not occur.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects members of the deer/elk family (cervids). It was first described in 1967 in Colorado and since has spread to 26 states, Canada, South Korea, Finland and Norway.
It was discovered in February 2016 near Pruitt and has since been found in 18 Arkansas counties. Infected animals will not show signs of disease for a long period of time, but late in the disease process, they will be thin and may demonstrate weakness, abnormal behavior, excessive thirst, or drooling. Animals generally die soon after the onset of these signs.